The Paradox of Choice

Several years back Barry Schwartz wrote a great book called ‘The Paradox of Choice’. The basic premise is that more choices do not make us a happier society. It is an interesting read that I highly recommend ( do we really need a choice of 6 shampoos to choose from each day in the shower ? ). I came across a short synopsis that Barry Schwartz wrote on his book that I think every-one should read. Here is the link below :

Upturn in Personal Growth During Recession

The troubled economic times that we find ourselves in are ripe for personal growth. The wave of tranquility that we rode during easier times has ended and now many of us find ourselves taking new risks and finding some unexpected side benefits. Take a look at the article below … I see real resilience being learnt by each family member …. they may be poorer financially but I believe they are richer in the real commodities needed in life.

(CNN) — Donna LeBlanc gave her husband, a former restaurant manager, the stark ultimatum: become a pizza delivery man or their family “wouldn’t make it.”
The Lafayette, Louisiana, family of six was struggling with $45,000 of mounting medical debt from Donna LeBlanc’s unexpected case of pneumonia and tonsillitis a year earlier. The family savings account had dwindled to $100.
“It’s embarrassing for my husband to take a job he is overqualified for, and I know he feels ashamed at times,” says Donna LeBlanc, a 35-year-old mother with four children. “But this is what we have to do and we’re going to make the best out of it.”
She watched her husband, Rob LeBlanc, 35, load Domino’s pizza boxes into their family car and deliver orders until near dawn for $10 an hour.
Until last summer, Rob LeBlanc had worked as a manager at a truck stop restaurant, making $55,000 a year. He lost that job to the falling economy.
Rob LeBlanc says he noticed business at the truck stop getting sluggish a year ago. Then the spike in gas prices last summer exacerbated the restaurant’s dire circumstances. Many penny-pinching truck drivers avoided his restaurant altogether, he says.
Rob LeBlanc filed for unemployment compensation immediately after he lost his job. More than 4.6 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits as of early January, according to the Labor Department.
In Lafayette, a quiet city of about 114,000 tucked away in southern Louisiana, many of the jobs center around servicing the oil and gas industry, but Rob LeBlanc was unwilling to work offshore and away from his family.
When he applied for other jobs, he was told he was either under-qualified or had too much experience.
After several weeks of searching, he took the only job he could get — a Domino’s pizza delivery man, a job that would cover the family’s expenses.
“I had to swallow my pride and take whatever I could get,” Rob LeBlanc says. “I kept telling myself one of these days something better will come along.”
He spent nearly five months delivering pizzas at Domino’s. He admits he fell into depression during that time.
But the family received good news Friday, when a private security company hired Rob LeBlanc to be a security officer. He says the company offers many opportunities to move up to a managerial position.
“My first thought was to tell my wife right away,” he says. “I could hear the relief in her voice.”
Taking a job as a pizza man wasn’t the only sacrifice he’s made for his family — he’s also selling his beloved 2003 Kawasaki motorcycle.
Donna LeBlanc earns a few hundred dollars a week exterminating mosquitoes for a bug control company. Before her husband lost his job, she had talked of going back to school to pursue a biology degree at Louisiana State University.
The LeBlanc family lives lean in their five-bedroom, three-bathroom house with its $440 a month mortgage. The couple is teaching their children about budgeting and bargaining while relying on coupons and sales. They no longer eat out and no longer have cable TV. For entertainment, they attend free movies at a church. Donna LeBlanc takes pride that they have no credit card debt.
Their children Brooke, 9, Christopher, 14, and Courtney, 13, no longer receive allowances. Soon after her father’s job loss, Courtney started cleaning houses and baby-sitting and earned enough money to buy a dress for her first school dance — off the clearance rack.
The LeBlancs’ oldest child, Sean, 16, who attends high school, still hasn’t found a job. He says the competition has gotten stiff, with many older workers in the area out of jobs. “I’m trying,” said Sean, who has been looking for a job since October. “There are just no openings.”
The LeBlancs have found some unexpected happiness. Donna LeBlanc says her husband now spends more time at home. Not being able to leave the house for entertainment has brought the children closer together over books, games and conversation.
“This experience has given us time to reconnect with each other,” Donna LeBlanc says. “And it’s taught us to just keep trying and believe that things will get better.”

The Six Main Causes of Clutter

Here’s a comprehensive article on the 6 Main Causes of Clutter that I really found useful :

(REAL SIMPLE) — If you’re ready to make a clean sweep of your house, help is here. Experts share the six main reasons why people can’t seem to let go of their stuff and their smartest tricks for outwitting that primal hoarding instinct. Prepare to clear out — for good!
The obstacle: ‘If I get rid of this wedding vase, I’ll feel guilty’
The solution: People feel a responsibility to be good stewards of things, says Frost, says Randy Frost, a professor of psychology at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, and a coauthor of “Buried in Treasures” (Oxford University Press). Especially items they’ve been given by or inherited from a loved one. Getting rid of a present feels like disrespecting the giver. But remember the true meaning of gifts.
“When you receive a present,” says Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, an interior designer in New York City and the founder of ApartmentTherapy.com, “your duty is to receive it and thank the giver — not to keep the gift forever.”
That goes for items you inherit. “Ask yourself, ‘How many things do I really need to honor this person’s memory?'” says Frost. Select a few objects with strong associations to your late grandmother, say, and keep them in places where you’ll see them. Let the rest go to people who want them more than you do.
Likewise, don’t be shy about admitting a mistake you made and moving on. The $120 pair of heels you bought last spring that pinch? Cut yourself some slack and give them away. Real Simple: How to Donate Old Clothes
A look at your love-hate relationship with the possessions that surround you, and how to overcome them
The obstacle: ‘But I might need seven sleeping bags one day’
The solution: Everyone fears tossing something out only to realize — six months, a year, or five years down the road — that she shouldn’t have. Keeping things around “just in case” makes people feel safe.
If your main problem is an overflowing closet, try the “packing for a trip” trick. It goes like this: You’re packing for a month’s vacation — you’ll need both dressy and casual clothes, for warm and cool weather, and you can fill two big suitcases.
Then take all the other things and place them on a rack in your basement or attic. If you want to wear any of those exiled clothes in the coming days, grab them. But as the months go by, you’ll be shocked at how few of those clothes you need or even think about. From there, it’s a baby step to a Goodwill bag.
Still have separation anxiety? Box up the stuff you’re not quite able to part with and write on the outside, open six months later. Then tuck it away in your basement, attic, or storage facility. If a year from now you find that you didn’t miss the items, it will be much easier to part with them.
The obstacle: ‘I think this brooch/chair/ugly knickknack might be valuable again’
The solution: When you hear the appraisers on “Antiques Roadshow” say that someone’s grandmother’s old Bakelite bracelets would now fetch $500, it’s easy to wonder whether your vintage piece might be worth a bundle. Stop guessing and find out what the item in question is truly worth.
Take a 10-minute spin on eBay, searching for an item similar to yours. (Click on “Advanced Search,” then “Completed Listings Only.”) If the sale prices look promising — or if you can’t find equivalent items — consider having the item appraised by an expert. Many local auction houses will do this for free in the hopes that you will sell the item through them later. (Google “auctions” and your city to find an auction house near you.)
For the greatest certainty, hire an independent appraiser through the American Society of Appraisers or the Appraisers Association of America. Be sure to ask for an estimate first. Real Simple: How to sell old clothes online
Remember — for something to be considered valuable, it must be in tip-top shape. “People think their old baseball cards or “National Geographics” are worth money,” says professional organizer Caitlin Shear. “But that’s true only if they’re packaged in a Mylar sleeve and in pristine condition.”
The obstacle: ‘If I put the bills away, I’ll never pay them on time’
The solution: Many clutterers have gotten into the habit of organizing their world visually and spatially, says professor Randy Frost. They’re afraid that if they put stuff away, they won’t remember it, because they won’t see it. “But it’s a perception of order,” he says, “not real order.”
You may initially recall that the electric bill is next to the potted plant on the kitchen counter, but it will soon be buried by other items you need to have in plain sight, too, like invitations and permission slips.
Even hard-core clutterers can train themselves to complete tasks without obvious visual cues, says Frost. For starters, if you’re used to leaving things in piles, designate a logical home for every object. Set up automatic e-mail reminders to help you remember to pay bills. In addition, if you feel as if out of sight is out of mind, make transparency your friend. Take items destined for closets, the garage, or the basement and store them in clear plastic bins so you can always see what’s there. Real Simple: Where to keep important documents
The obstacle: ‘I want this chartreuse muumuu to go to a good home’
The solution: People often want to find just the right place for their belongings. The problem is, trying to find just the right place can be paralyzing, says interior designer Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. And while you wait, say, for your niece to move into a starter apartment, your old love seat and dinette set gather dust.
To satisfy your desire for perfect placement, look for a charity with which you feel a strong connection — perhaps a shelter for women. To identify a worthy one near you, visit charitynavigator.org, a nonprofit research group that evaluates charities based on how effectively they use donations. Go to the Advanced Search page, select “Human Services” charities, and type in your ZIP code. Contact the three- or four-star charities that interest you and ask if they accept donations.
If that sounds like too much trouble, call your nearest house of worship and inquire whether it has a clothing drive coming up. Ask if the donation is tax-deductible, and get a receipt.
The obstacle: ‘I want to declutter, but I can’t get motivated’
The solution: This may be due to a phenomenon known as delayed discounting, says Daniel Hommer, M.D., chief of brain imaging at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in Bethesda, Maryland, and an expert on motivation. It works like this: If it takes a long time to reach a goal, you value that goal less than if you could reach it quickly — making it harder to get started. Make projects small and rewards immediate, says Hommer.
After you organize a distinct area, dress it up — add decorative paper to the bottom of a now spartan toiletry drawer, for instance. Keep at it and your home will become not only more orderly but also more beautiful.

Get Ahead With Taxes

Tax season is looming …. consider calling your accountant and making an appointment for February or March. There is a great feeling of control knowing your taxes are on their way to being filed early. Take a manila envelope or accordion file and put your tax documents in one place. Here are the main categories …

Mortgage Interest
Real Estate Taxes
Medical & Dental
Income ( W2’s)
Tuition

Your accountant will give you some other specifics unique to your situation but getting the above documents in one place will be of great assistance.